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SportLouisville basketball scandal: No rogue trustee found in investigation

03:15  15 august  2019
03:15  15 august  2019 Source:   courier-journal.com

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Rick Pitino is out as Louisville ’s basketball coach today, and to understand why let’s first revisit a recent story about Rick Pitino being very happy. There are not going to be a lot of happy Rick Pitino stories right now because of the truth about this one.

Louisville argues that Pitino’s alleged misconduct led to grave harm to the basketball program and to disparaging publicity for the school. Second, Louisville charges that Pitino violated his contract by failing to notify athletic department compliance officers of Dawkins’s presence on campus.

What James Ramsey said and what David Grissom heard is in dispute. But the University of Louisville’s concerns about rogue trustees were real, were investigated and were ultimately unsubstantiated.

Louisville basketball scandal: No rogue trustee found in investigation© Provided by Gannett Co., Inc.

“I have to get all of the facts, but that is my understanding,” U of L President Neeli Bendapudi said Wednesday. “It was investigated by our athletics department.”

Asked if that investigation took place subsequent to speculation that a trustee had provided funding for the stripper parties that cost the university its 2013 NCAA men’s basketball championship, Bendapudi replied, “Yes, and they found no basis for it.”

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Grissom, former chairman of U of L’s board of trustees, surprisingly broached that subject during a deposition last month, volunteering that Ramsey, the former U of L president, had told him a trustee had been the “cash source for paying off the strippers.”

Ramsey’s attorney, Steve Pence, called Grissom’s claim a “complete fabrication.” Yet if Grissom misspoke – and he has plainly created a new set of problems for U of L – the larger issue he identified was not woven from whole cloth.

Two former U of L trustees have told the Courier Journal they were interviewed by investigators attempting to follow the money that funded Katina Powell’s sex parties at Billy Minardi Hall.

Related: Breaking down David Grissom's claim a Louisville trustee was sex scandal's 'cash source'

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“I had one of the investigators who will go nameless come down to my office,” said Bill Stone, a trustee from 2004 to 2010. “They wanted to know who do I know in the intimate circle of U of L supporters who might have the personality to get involved with that kind of thing. I learned from that discussion that they couldn’t prove there was a single dime involved.”

Stone joked that he was “too cheap,” to have bankrolled the parties arranged by former basketball assistant Andre McGee. Former trustee Jonathan Blue, who has earned courtside seats at U of L basketball games as a “Louisville Legend,” – the highest tier of Cardinal Athletic Fund donors – also confirmed he had been questioned by investigators seeking information about those involved in the scandal.

“Under no circumstances whatsoever would I ever have been involved in any way with any such activities,” Blue said. “If I had heard about it or anyone on the board had that type of information and shared it with me, I would have reported it to the investigators. Any suggestion otherwise is an outright lie.”

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The N.C.A.A. on Tuesday upheld penalties against Louisville ’s men’s basketball program related to a sex scandal involving players, recruits and prostitutes, and ordered the university to forfeit dozens of victories, including its 2013 national championship.

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Dr. Bob Hughes, who chaired the board of trustees from 2013-15, expressed surprise that any trustees had been interviewed.

“I was on the board 12 years and I was chair two,” Hughes said. “And not one time in a board meeting was the possibility of a trustee (being involved) ever discussed. And not one time in any open or private conversations with the administration, and probably no one was closer to Jim Ramsey than I.

Opinion: David Grissom's inaction on Louisville basketball scandal is inexplicable, indefensible

“It never came up that there was a suspicion that a trustee was involved ... It opens up a whole can of worms for the university, for the NCAA, for the basketball program.”

In the absence of hard evidence of a trustee’s involvement, it is unclear that the NCAA would have grounds or motivation to revisit the sanctions U of L has already received or to expand on the expected Notice of Allegations arising from Brian Bowen’s recruitment. Still, merely raising the subject effectively raises the stakes, and on multiple fronts.

“If it came out that a board member supplied the money, the (NCAA) punishment is worse,” defense attorney Steve Romines said. “And the more people that know potentially incriminating information, the worse it is.”

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Louisville is voluntarily withholding its men’s basketball team from this season’s Atlantic Coast Conference and N.C.A.A. tournaments, as the N.C.A.A. investigates a scandal in which a former basketball employee is accused of having purchased strippers and prostitutes for some recruits and

Louisville basketball was placed on four years of probation with the NCAA in June following a long investigation into allegations made by With criminal investigation ongoing and the NCAA yet to weigh in on the matter, it remains to be seen if Pitino can outlast another scandal involving his program.

Then there’s the impact on former U of L basketball coach Rick Pitino’s lawsuit against the University of Louisville Athletic Association. Pence, who represents both Ramsey and Pitino, filed a motion Wednesday to re-open discovery proceedings in response to Grissom’s deposition.

Pence argued that trustee funding would impact the University of Louisville Athletic Association’s claim that Pitino was responsible for failing to monitor McGee’s activities; that Grissom’s actions (or inaction) taint the NCAA’s decision and that withholding what he claims to have been told undermines ULAA’s objection to Pitino’s failure to report hearsay about DePaul’s purported offer to Bowen.

With three of his former U of L assistants implicated for various NCAA infractions, Pitino’s case remains problematic. That said, Grissom’s deposition made it that much more difficult to close that can of worms.

No longer the chair, but still a member of the board of trustees, Grissom left Wednesday morning’s meeting in the company of an armed escort, University of Louisville police sergeant Glenn Minor. When asked if he was available for comment, Grissom turned his head without saying a word.

Earlier: Chris Mack, Brian Bowen Jr. still 'focused' on basketball after NCAA notice of inquiry

“He’s not,” Minor said.

Lesson learned. When in doubt, choose silence.

“People in prison and fish on the wall have one thing in common,” Romines said: “They couldn’t keep their mouth shut.”

Tim Sullivan: 502-582-4650, [email protected]; Twitter: @TimSullivan714. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/tims.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Louisville basketball scandal: No rogue trustee found in investigation

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